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In the following pages no explanation of the Passover as
it was observed in the Old Testament times is aimed at.
I hope to publish later a fuller account of the origin,
growth, and significance of the Passover, discussing from
a Jewish point of view several questions which are either
omitted or only slightly touched in this pamphlet. Here
I have confined myself to a non-technical description of
the Passover as it was kept in the days of ouv Lord. I have
dwelt especially on those manners and customs of the
Jews which throw light on the Institution of the Lord's
Supper or elucidate some obscure passages of the New
I must acknowledge here my indebtedness to Dr.
Edersheim's " Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah,"
(Longman) and" Temple and its Ministry" (R.T.S.).
I have also made use of Friedlander's Jewish
Religion; the Jewish Encyclopaedia; Hastings' Diction
ary of the Bible ; Keil's Biblical Archaeology ; Kurtz's
History of the Old Covenant ; Rawlinson's Exodus ;
various volumes of the International Critical Com
mentary and other well-known commentaries.
The illustrations on pp. 4 and 28 are taken from
Lane's Modern Egyptian.
K. E. K.
Egyptian and the Permanent Passover.
The Passover was intended to keep alive a grateful
remembrance of the deliverance from Egypt. We have
in the twelfth chapter of Exodus an account of the
origin and the mode of observing the feast. The
Jews distinguish between the Egyptian and the Per
The Egyptian or the Primary Passover. — The
head of the household had to choose on the tenth day
of the month a male lamb (or kid) one year old, and
without blemish, and keep it separate from the flock
until the fourteenth day at even. Then he had to kill it,
and dip a bunch of hyssop in its blood and stain the
lintel and the two side posts of his doorway (Ex. xii., 22}
so that when the Lord was passing through the land to
smite all the first-born, He might pass over (i.e. " spare '')
the houses of the Israelites, and not allow the angel of
death to enter in (v. 13). The lamb was then . to be
roasted without breaking a bone, and to be eaten with
bitter herbs and unleavened bread (v. 8) the same night
and at one sitting. Any fragment unconsumed was to
be burnt with fire (v. 10). " And thus shall ye eat it ;
with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your
staff in your hand : and ye shall eat it in haste ; it is the
Lord's passover. For I will go through the land of
Egypt in that night, and will smite all the first-born in
the land of Egypt, both man and beast ; and against all
the gods of Egypt I will execute judgements: I am the
Lord " (vers. 11-12). This primary passover only lasted
one night. Additional rules, however, were given for a
permanent annual observance.
The Permanent Passover (Ex. xii., 14-20). — The
festival was extended to seven days (v. 15), of which the
first and the last were " a holy convocation," i.e., a
solemn assembly for religious worship. Later on
regulations were made also about pilgrimages to a
central sanctuary, the offering of other sacrifices, the
admission of the non- Israelites to the festival, and the
instruction. of the children (Ex. xxiii., 14; D.eut. xvi., 2,
5, 6 ; Ex. xii., 26). We must bear in mind that the
departure of the Israelites took place during the month
Abib " (" green ears of corn "), or spring (Ex. xiii., 4).
As among both pastoral and agricultural people, spring
is the season of special sacrifices and festivities, these
elements, after having been stripped of any heathenish
associations they might have had, were adopted and
incorporated into the feast of unleavened bread, and
purer motives were thus assigned to them. The AGRI
CULTURAL element we find in Lev. xxiii., 10-11, where it
is enjoined that " On the morrow after the Sabbathf ye
shall bring the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest unto
the priest, and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord."
This wave offering was made at the beginning of barky
harvest (2 Sam. xxi., 9), as the wheat becomes ripe
about a fortnight later. So the festival of the beginning
of harvest is blended with the feast of unleavened bread
(comp. Deut. xvi., 9 and 12). The PASTORAL element also
is recognised in the command, " Sanctify unto me all the
first born, whatsoever openeth the womb among the
children of Israel, both of men and of beast : it is mine."
(Ex. xiii., 2). The fresh motive assigned to this sacrifice
of the firstlings of the herd was the fact that when " the
Lord slew all the first born in the land of Egypt, both
the first born of man and the first born of beast," He
spared the Israelites (Ex. xiii., 14-16).
i i.e., the day following the i5th of Xisan which was kept with cessation from
all work as on a sabbath. S) the day of atonement is called "Sabbath"
(Lev. xxiii, 32) independently of the day of the week in which it may fall.
* Strictly speaking the " Passover " is distinct from the feast of" unleavened
bread," the former designating the i4th of Abib, whereas the latter begins at
sunset on the i4th, which according to the Jewish mode of reckoning is the
beginning of the i5th. It extends over seven days (comp. Lev. xxiii., 5, 0
Num. xxviii., 16, 17); The two feasts, however, following each other so closely
are frequently treated as one (Dent, xvi, i. 3).
The Passover in the Time of Christ. — Before
the time of our Lord certain significant features bad been
introduced into the observance of the feast, and some
details of the " Egyptian " Passover were omitted. As
the institution of the Lord's Supper is so intimately
connected with the contemporary mode of the Passover
observance, we proceed here to describe somewhat more
fully how the Jews kept it in the days of our Lord.
Preparations. — Had we been living in Jerusalem
in those days, we should have noticed that the Passover
was monopolizing the attention of all classes of society
about four weeks before its arrival. It would be dis
cussed in the academies, descanted upon in the syna
gogues, and taught the children in the schools. House
wives would be busily occupied in something approach
ing our sprfng-cleaning, and in " washings (literally
" baptizings "*) of cups, and pots, and brasen vessels,"
(Mk. vii., 4), in carefully cleaning and storing cereals,
and in making garments for themselves and their house-
* Separate sets of kitchen and other household utensils were used generally
during the Passover. If an ordinary set was to be used, it would be first well
scrubbed and then literally immersed or "baptized" in boiling water. New
vessels bought from Gentiles would pass through the same process, called
hold f in honour of the coming feast. The Sanhedrin would
send working men to examine and repair the bridges and
to keep the roads in good condition for the convenience
of the pilgrims.
Whitened Sepulchres.— Burials in Palestine
usually took place outside the towns, either in natural
caves or in rock hewn tombs. If, however, a person met
with sudden death in a field, he would be buried on the
very spot where he was found. About a month prior to
the Passover, all such graves were whitened, so that their
dazzling brightness might make them conspicuous, and
so warn pilgrims from approaching them and unwittingly
contracting ceremonial defilement. It was to this
practice that our Lord alluded when, a few days before
the Passover, He compared some of the Pharisees of
His day to "whitened sepulchres" (Matt, xxiii, 27.)
He hereby meant that their external sanctity, divorced
from real inward holiness of life, concealed much rotten
ness within (comp. Acts xxiii., 3), and was to be a sign
post indicating hidden corruption. We must not, however,
assume that the New Testament denounced all the
Pharisees as such (see Matt, xxiii., 2-3; John iii., 1-2;
Acts v., 34, 38, 39; xxiii., 6; Phil, iii., 6). Some of
them became believers (Acts xv., 5).
\ In those days there were no professional dressmakers. Ladies of all rank
did the tailoring for their household (see i Sam. ii., 19 Prov. xxxi., 22-24,
Acts ix., 39),
Every male* Jew had to " appear before the Lord "
in Jerusalem at the three great Feasts of Passover,
Pentecost, and Tabernacles (Deut. xvi., 16). Each
person would generally so arrange as to reach the Holy
City a few days before the Feast in order that he might
purify himself from any case of ceremonial defilement
(John xi., 55).
Number of Visitors.— Josephus, the Jewish
historian, who was a contemporary of the Apostles, tells
us that in the year 66 A.D. about 2^ million Jews were
present at the Feast. Some scholars think that
Josephus is exaggerating. Jerusalem, they allege, could
not have accommodated such a vast number of people.
Josephus' statement is not really incredible.
We must bear in mind that the mode of life in the
East vastly differs from that in the West. Every room
in an Eastern house can be turned into a bedroom at
night, and half a dozen men can be accommodated in
one room (comp. Luke xi., 7). I am afraid, my dear
reader, you are shocked at such an idea, and you will ask
" Where do they get the necessary bedsteads ? " Well, to be
frank, I must admit that the ordinary people have no
* There were two rival Schools in the days of our Lord, the
School of Hillel and the School of Sbammai. The former recom
mended women also to be present at the Passover. This accounts
for the presence of the Virgin at the Feast (Luke ii., 41).
bedsteads/" nor do they need them. When you read the
story of the sick man to whom our Lord said " Take up
thy bed and walk " (John v., 8), you must not imagine
that the man had to take up a heavy iron bedstead, put
it on his back and walk ; though you may have heard
some good people assert that such was the case, and
that the carrying of the heavy burden was a proof of the
infirm man's complete recovery. Nothing of the kind.
The sick man had only a " pallet " or a pliable mattress
(called " Krabattos " in Greek) which could be folded or
rolled up and carried either on the shoulder or on the
arm. The bed in an ordinary house consists of a
mattress which can be folded, a quilt and a bolster.
These are neatly folded up in the morning, put in a
large covering of some fancy]material,and deposited in the
closet or a recess in the wall. Should the covering be
embroidered or otherwise ornamented, then the folded
bed is placed close to the wall and serves as a divan or
couch for resting on during the day. So, what is a bed
at night, is a couch in the day. |
* Only Og, King of Bashan, is mentioned as having possessed
" a bedstead of iron " (Deut. iii., n). Very wealthy people, how
ever, had " beds of ivory " (Amos vi., 4), and couches which were
most luxuriously embroidered and perfumed (Prov. vii., 16-17).
f When Hainan was pleading before Queen Esther for his life,
we read in the Authorized Version that^ Ahasuerus found him
" fallen upon the bed where Esther was." Now we may be quite sure
that Haman could not have dared to commit such an outrageous
folly. In fact, he never did so. The "bed" on which he was
grovelling was only a " couch " and so it is rendered in the Revised
The poor and the ordinary travellers cannot boast
of owning even a pallet, such as the sick man had.
When they want to sleep, they do so in their day clothes
and cover themselves with their cloak or outer garment,
which in Hebrew is called " Simlah," and in Arabic
"Abaa." Now, we can appreciate the humanitarian
law laid down in Exodus xxii. 26-27: "Ifthou at all
take thy neighbour's garment to pledge, thou shalt
restore it unto him by that the sun goeth down : for
that is his only covering, it is his garment for his skin :
wherein shall he sleep ? "
After the foregoing remarks, you will readily admit
that the question of bedsteads will not stand in the way
of a kind host accommodating a large number of pilgrims
in his house; for each pilgrim will be sure to bring with
him his "abaa," which is a good substitute for both
bed and bedstead. We must not forget that the court
yards as well as the flat roofs of Eastern houses will
also be available for sleeping purposes. Add to all this
the fact thaf a large number of visitors would be encamp
ing outside Jerusalem, especially in Bethphage and
Bethany — two villages at the Mount of Olives
(Mk. xi., i), and ecclesiastically regarded as part of
Jerusalem. As we read in the Talmud (Pes. liii} that
the inhabitants of these two villages were especially
famous for their hospitality to the Passover pilgrims,
our thoughts go back to that holy family — Martha,
Mary, and Lazarus — who were residents in Bethany
and were several times visited by our Lord
(Luke x., 38-42; John xi., 1-53). Was it their
hospitality to the pilgrims which brought them to the
notice of our Lord? At any rate, the Talmud
incidentally confirms the Gospel narrative, in that it
bears witness to the generosity of the inhabitants of
Bethany, and thus is in full accord with the impression
that we independently form by a careful study of the
* See Luke x., 38-41. Martha welcomes our Lord (verse 38) ;
she is distracted lest, without Mary's assistance, any minutia of
hospitality should be left unperformed, she being the elder sister,
the responsibility devolves on her (v. 40) ; our Lord acknowledges
Martha's loving anxiety and sets her at ease (v. 41). Comp.
John xii., 2 (" Martha served "). In John xii., 3, we read that Mary
" took a pound of ointment of spikenard, very precious, and anointed
the feet of Jesus,"
A Week before the Passover.
The Lamb. — The Jews would arrive at Jerusalem
about a week before the Feast. They would choose a
lamb on the fourteenth of the month Nisan, and take it to
the officers of the Temple to be examined. If declared
to be without blemish, it would be sacrificed on the
fourteenth day of the month, namely, the day with the
evening of which the first day of Passover begins. As
Christians, we cannot but see in this a foreshadowing of
the sacrifice of Christ. A week before the Passover our
Lord went up to Jerusalem. He was brought for
examination before the tribunals of Pontius Pilate and
Herod, who were compelled to declare Him without
any blemish. " Ye brought unto me this man as one
that perverteth the people," said Pilate, " and behold, I,
having examined Him before you, found no fault in this
Man touching those things whereof ye accuse Him : no,
nor yet Herod: for he sent Him back unto us; and behold,
nothing worthy of death hath been done by Him " (Lk. xxiii.,
14, 15). So, after this public declaration by the chief
officers of the nation to His innocence, the Lamb of
God was delivered up to be crucified, and He shed His
atoning blood on the very day that the Passover lamb
was to be offered. Can we not see now the reason why
St. Paul designates Christ as " our Passover "
(i Cor. v., 7) ?
Here I may make a slight digression in order to
describe how time is reckoned in the East.
In Kngland we reckon from midnight to midnight,
and we consider the night as part of the preceding day.
Not so in the East. Paradoxical though it may sound,
it is a fact that the eastern day begins in the evening
(Lev. xxiii., 32), and the night is part of the day following.
For instance, if to-day is Wednesday, to-night will be
called not Wednesday night, but Thursday night, for it
forms part of the morrow. \Ye notice this on the very
first page of our Bible, for in Genesis i., 5, we read,
" And there was evening and there was morning, one
day." No\v, does the knowledge of this fact at all help
us to understand in what way Christ's stay in the grave
can be regarded as " three days and three nights "
(Mt. xii., 40) ? Yes, it does. The Lord was crucified
on Friday, and He rose on Sunday morning. The three
days are reckoned thus : —
ist day : From the hour of the crucifixion till sunset on
Friday, being part of a day is regarded as one
day, just as part of a year in the books of the
Kings is regarded as one year.
2nd day : From sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday.
3rd day : From sunset on Saturday till Sunday morning
(part of a day and regarded as one day).
What about the " three nights "? The Lord was in the
prave two whole nights. That St. Matthew knew that the
Lord was crucified on Friday ("the Preparation ") and rose
on Sunday morning, is evident from xxviL 62,andxxviii. i,
and from other passages. Consequently, he must have,
been aware that there were only two nights in the whole
period of the Lord's sojourn in the grave. Why then
does he retain the wording "three days and three nights"
which to the Western mind appears inexact ? For the
good reason, we reply, that he did not choose his phrase
ology for the over-punctilious Western critics, but for
the Eastern Jews who would appreciate a pictorial
language, and to whom the apostle's wording would
suggest no difficulty at all. By the expression " three
days and three nights," they would understand " three
days or parts of three days, with the intervening nights "
as distinct from three days without the nights. Should
anyone feel any hesitancy in accepting this explanation,
we would direct him to an early attempt at solution
made in the Syviac Didascalid* (edition Lagarde, page 88)
which takes the three hours of darkness (Matt, xxvh'45) on
the Crucifixion day as equivalent to an additional night. f
The Purging of Leaven. — On the night preceding
the Passover night, an especial ceremony called "bedigath
chametz " (searching for leaven) and based on Zephaniah
i. 12, would take place in every Jewish house. The head
* See the International Crit. Commentary on St. Matthew by
W. C. Allen, page 139 (note).
t See note on page 19.
of the family, taking a light in one hand and a pair of
tongs in another, would search all the nooks and corners
of the house and gather in one place every particle of
leaven and put them in a safe place. On the morrow
(Nisan i4th), some time in the forenoon, and so before
the sacrifice of the Paschal lamb, he would reverently
burn or purge them from his house, making the following
declaration : —
"All leaven which perchance remains in my domain, and
which has escaped my observation shall be destroyed and
be like unto the dust of the earth, " This ordinance is called
" Bi-oor chametz" i.e., " the purging of leaven," and is
alluded to by St. Paul in his first Epistle to the Corinth
ians, which he wrote a short time before the Passover
(xvi., 8). He takes an illustration from this Jewish
ceremony and says " Purge out the old leaven, that ye may be a
new lump, even as ye are unleavened. For our Passover
also hath been sacrificed, even Christ" (\., 7-8). What he
means is this : you know that by the time that the Jews
had offered their Paschal lamb, no leaven would be found
in their houses. Now, for us Christians, Christ is the
Paschal lamb, and He hath been sacrificed, so there should
be no "leaven" found amongst us. By "leaven" he
means " the leaven of malice and wickedness," (v. 8).
What hour was the Passover killed ? — According
to the original injunction, the Passover was to be killed
" at even," literally, " between the two evenings,"
(Ex. xii., 6). This expression has been variously
interpreted. The Pharisees (see Josephus, Bell,
Jud. vi., 9, 3,) supposed that the first evening commenced
when the sun began to decline, i.e., about 3 p.m. The
Samaritans, on the other hand, regarded it as the period
between the disappearance of the sun below the horizon
and the time when it is quite dark, i.e., from six o'clock
till about half-past seven (Kurtz). Deut. xvi., 6,
" Thou shalt sacrifice at even, at the going down of the sun"
is in favour of the latter interpretation. See Ex. xvi.,
12, 13, where " between the two evenings," and " in the
evening " are used synonymously. In the days of our
Lord, however, the number of Paschal lambs rose to
over 250,000. Although all the twenty-four " courses "
of priests were on duty, yet it would have been utterly
impossible to complete the offering of this immense
number of sacrifices 'during about ij hours. So, we
must assume that the killing of the lambs commenced
earlier in the day, that is about 2-30 p.m. This was the
accepted view in the time of our Lord.
If the i/j-th of Nisan fell on a Friday, the killing
would take place about two hours earlier.
The Fast of the First Born.— The first born in
the family would fast on the whole or part of the
Preparation Day, in thankful remembrance that when
the Lord smote the first born in Egypt all the first born
in Israel were spared. Some also abstain from a full
meal " from about the time of *mincha till after dark," in
order that they may approach the festive meal in the
evening with full appetite (Pesachim x., i). The motive
for this abstention was not religious, but epecurian.
* " Mincha " is the evening prayer which is read before the sun
NOTE TO PAGE 16.
Some writers think that the Crucifixion took place on a
Thursday. The " three days and three nights" will then be
reckoned thus : —
ist; day : From sunset on Thursday to sunset on Friday.
2nd day : From sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday.
3rd day : From sunset on Saturday to Sunday morning.
The Passover Night, f
We must assume that the paschal lamb has been
killed in the Temple sometime in the afternoon of Nisan
i4th. On the evening of the same day (i.e., the beginning
of Nisan i5th), the Israelites, forming themselves into
companies of not Jess than ten nor more than twenty,
would eat the Passover at home. They would sit at
table in the same jovial spirit that Christians in England
sit at the Christmas table. The Jew regards the Pass
over as a joyous, religious feast. So, while at table, he
must go through a special Service. This service is
called " Haggadah," which means " showing forth," or
" relating " the story of deliverance from Egypt. It is
derived from the Hebrew word used in Ex. xiii. 8, " And
thoushalt show [R.V."tell "] thy son in that day "
t The Synoptists (i.e. Matthew, Mark and Luke) and St. John
agree that our Lord was crucified on Friday, but it is not quite clear
whether that Friday was the i4th or i5th of Nisan. Reading St.
John alone, one gets the impression that it was the I4th, whereas
the Synoptists seem to suggest that it was the i5th of Nisan. It is
quite clear that both the Synoptists and St. John are describing the
selfsame scene. Why then this conflicting impression ? Several replies
have been offered by different scholars. The solution that satisfies
St. Paul applies the very same word to express one
aspect of the Lord's Supper ! " For as often as ye eat
this bread, and drink the cup, ye proclaim (A.V. " do shoiv ")
the Lord's death till He come " (i Cor. xi., 26). The
Holy Communion is not only a means of " the spiritual
unity of all believers in Christ" (i Cor x., 17), but it is
also a " proclamation " to ourselves and to the world at
large of the redemption wrought by the Lord's death till
He come. In other words, it has a missionary and
evidential aspect as well.
The Large Upper Room Furnished and Ready
(Mk. xiv., 15). — "On the first day of unleavened
bread" * (Mk. xii., 12), the Lord sent Peter and John
(Luke xxii., 8), to Jerusalem, with orders that they
should follow " a man I bearing a pitcher of water, and
prepare the Passover in the "large upper room furnished
the present writer is as follows : — St. John and the Synoptists
regard the same day differently, simply because the Jewish calendar
had not yet been fixed. Jews depended upon the appearance of the
new moon to determine the first day of the month. Owing to the
weather, the new moon would be seen in some parts of the country,
but remain unobserved in others. From this would arise a difference
in computation ; the same day would be regarded by one man as
the i4th, by another man as the i5th day of the month. We
actually read in the Talmud of a certain Rabbi Joshua calling into
question the accuracy of R. Gamaliel II (80-116 A.D.) who had
fixed a certain day as the first day of Tishri. 1 must reserve a fuller
discussion of this question for a larger \voik than this pamphlet.
* This means the i4th of Nisan, in the last hours of which the
Feast of Unleavened Bread began.
f Generally women carry the pitcher of water.
and ready" which the good man of the house f would
show them. By the word "furnished" we must not
think that the room looked anything like the drawing-
rooms in England. If you will please turn to the
frontispiece you will see there an illustration of an
Eastern " furnished " room. There are no chairs there,
none of those pretty things with which you fill up the
centre of your drawing-rooms. There are soft divans or
cushions, placed on the three sides of the room. The
guests are keeping on their hats, but have taken off their
shoes (comp. Ex. hi., 5), and are comfortably squatted
on the divans. On the low table before them there are
no forks, knives, or spoons. The same room is used
as dining-room, drawing-room, sitting-room, study-
room, and bed-room.
Reclining at Table. — At the first celebration, the
Passover was partaken of in haste, with loins girded,
with shoes on feet and staff in hand (Ex. xii., n) ; but,
at the time we are describing, they had discarded the
travellers' garments for festive robes, and had adopted the
reclining posture at table " as free men do, in memorial
of their freedom." Because it is the manner of slaves
to eat standing, therefore now they eat sitting and
leaning, in order to show that they have been delivered
from bondage into freedom." " No, not the poorest in
t See "The Interpreter" of April, 1907, p. 318, where the
" good man of the house " is identified with S*. Mark.
Israel may eat till he has sat down, leaning." f It was
not necessary that they should recline the whole time they
were at table, but only while partaking of the bread and
the wine. So we read that at the Last Supper, " one of
the disciples, whom Jesus loved " (i.e. St. John) " was
reclining on Jesus' /«/>" (" kolpos " in Greek). It was
at the Paschal Supper, and St. John had adopted the
From the striking and vivid description of the
beloved Apostle, who was an eye-witness, we can
picture to ourselves that memorable scene in that upper
room, when the Lord instituted His own Supper. In
the illustration on page 24, you will see there is a
rough sketch of how our Lord and the Apostles would
be seated. In the centre of the couch on the top — the
place of the head of the family — our Lord is sitting ; on
His right hand is St. John leaning on our Lord's lap.
On His left is Judas Iscariot. St Peter is sitting on
another couch next to St. John.
f For these quotations I am indebted to Edersheim's Temple
Notes on the Illustration on page 24.
The Lord occupies the centre of the middle divan,
for it is the place of the head of the family. St. John is
on His right hand. While leaning on his left arm, St.
John's head came to the " breast " of our Lord. This
shows that he must have been sitting on the right of our
Lord, on the seat of honour, and incidentally shows that
he was " the apostle whom Jesus loved." Judas is on
the left of our Lord. This we gather from the fact that
when our Lord had foretold the treachery of one of His
disciples, Judas answered and said " Is it I, Rabbi ? He
saith unto him, thou hast said" Evidently the other
apostles did not hear this reply of Christ to Judas.
Had they heard it, they would not have allowed him to
leave the house. So we conclude that Judas was allotted a
seat close to our Lord. As St. John was on the right
hand, Judas must have been on the left. This is
confirmed by John xiii., 26.
St. Peter must have been sitting near enough to
St. John to be able to speak to him, and yet at some
distance so as to require beckoning. " Simon Peter there
fore beckoneth to him (St. John), and saith unto him, tell
us, who it is of whom He speaketh" (John xiii., 25). St.
John, on Peter's beckoning, raises himself from the lap
(Greek ' kolpos ') of Jesus, and so can speak to him without
being overheard. Then " he leaning back on to Jesus'
breast " (Greek, ' stethos '), i.e., nearer to His ear, asks in
a whisper, "Lord, who is it ? " — (See Meyer).
Programme of the Passover-eve Service.
We take it for granted that the Passover as observed
by the Eastern Jews to-day, follows substantially the
programme laid down in the Talmud.
The Service begins at sunset and lasts about three
hours. The Rabbinic rubric says, " The Passover is
not eaten but during the night, nor yet later than the
middle of the night" (Zebbach v., 2). Every Jew on
this night must drink four cups of wine, " though he were
to receive the money for it from the poor box,"
(Pesachim x., i). It is asserted by some Rabbis that the
four cups are the joyful reminders of the four Hebrew
words used by God when He promised to bring the
Israelites out of Egypt. The four words are found in
Exodus vi., 6-7, and are as follow: — "/ will bring yon
out" " / will rid you" " / will redeem you," " I will take you
to Me" The cups are not drunk at once, but at intervals
during three hours ; the first as they sit at table, the
second before the meal, the third after the meal ; the
fourth at the conclusion of the whole service. Here we
describe the service in the order observed by present day
i. — The First Cup of Wine. — Everyone at table is
provided with a separate cup. These cups are all filled with
red wine diluted with water. The head of the family
takes the cup, pronounces the usual Sabbath (our
Saturday) blessing'-- on it, and adds the following :—
" Blessed art Thou O Lord, our God, King of the
universe, Who hast kept its alive, and sustained us, and
permitted us to reach this season." Then all drink their
cups at the same time. Sometimes, in the East, the
celebrant alone fills his cup, blesses it, drinks of it, and
passes it round. Then each one would pour a little into
his own cup and drink. This seems to have been the usage
followed by our Lord. The cup mentioned in Luke
xxn. 17, refers to this first cup. The cup with which
He instituted His own supper was the third cup, which
will be explained in its order.
2. — The First Washing of Hands. — The celebrant
alone washes his hands, but not ceremonially. The
Rabbis recognize various modes of washing the hands.
To wash the hands ceremonially a man must lift up a
ewer with the left hand and pour down water from it
* " Blessed art Thou O Lord, our God, King of the universe,
Who didst create the fruit of the vine."
first upon the right and then upon his left hand. He
must repeat this three times, forming his hand into a
closed fist so that the water should go all over it. This
is mentioned in Mark vii., 3, where we read that " The
Pharisees and all the Jews except they wash their hands
diligently (" with the fist," R.V., margin ; " oft " A.V.), they
eat not." This practice originated with the Scribes in the
Washing before or after a Meal.
days of our Lord. It is recorded in the Talmud
(Eduy. p. 6), that a certain Rabbi Eliezer ben Chanokh
who violated this ordinance was actually buried in
excommunication. Now we can understand the zeal
of the Scribes (Mk. vii., i) in finding fault with the disciples
of our Lord for having violated this decree of theirs, and
that in their very presence. We need not assume that
the disciples did not wash their hands at all. They did
not wash their hands ceremonially, i.e., u with the fist," or
up to the wrist.
3. — Vegetables. — A piece of parsley or lettuce is
dipped into salt water and eaten as appetizer.
4. — The Breaking of Bread,— The bread consumed
during the Feast is a dry, thin unleavened cake, which
can be easily broken. On Sabbath (our Saturday) there
are two loaves of bread on the table in memory of the
double measure of manna that was gathered on Friday
(Shab. nyb) ; but on Passover night there are three.
The head of the family breaks the middle loaf into
two parts, and lays aside the larger part to be eaten at
the end of the supper as afikuman, or dessert. The
breaking reminds the Israelite of the " bread of affliction, "
for an afflicted poor man, it is argued, would not be
likely to have a whole loaf, but only broken pieces. So he
takes up the broken bread and says : " This is the bread of
affliction which our forefathers ate in the land oj Egypt, who
soever is hungry, let him come and eat." What does he
mean by these words ? Does he mean that the broken
bread which he is holding in his hand is miraculously
turned into the same bread which his ancestors centuries
ago consumed in Egypt ? No, he does not mean anything
of the kind ; he simply means " we do this in remembranc
of the kind of bread which our ancestors ate in Egypt."
The breaking of bread implies two things : (i) -A re-
reminder of " the bread of affliction " which the Israelites
ate in the Egyptian bondage. (ii) A thanksgiving for
redemption from that bondage. Our Lord gave a new
significance to both aspects of this breaking of bread.
" And He took bread, and when He had given thanks,
He brake it, and gave to them saying, this is My body
which is given for you : this do in remembrance of Me,"
(Luke xxii, 19). In other words, He said Up to this time
whenever you broke the bread, it reminded you of the
" BREAD OF AFFLICTION " which your fathers ate in
Egypt ; but henceforth when you break the bread, let it
remind you of the breaking of My body which is going to
take place for you to-morrow on the cross. Heretofore,
whenever you broke this break, you THANKED God for your
redemption from the Egyptian bondage ; henceforth,
when you " perform this action," thank God for your
redemption from a greater bondage, the bondage of sin;
" This do,* no more in remembrance of Egypt, but " in
remembrance of Me."
5.—" Relating' or " Proclaiming;" the Story of
the Deliverance, and the Drinking of the Second
Cup. — In accordance with Exod. xiii., 8, the Jewish
father has to tell his son the importance of the feast.
So, the table is covered at this junction in order to excite
the curiosity of the children, the youngest of whom
would put the following question to the father, " Why
is this night distinguished from all other nights ? "
The father then relates the whole national history,
dwelling especially on the story of the deliverance from
Egypt. This is followed by the recital of the first
part of the Hallel (Pss. cxiii., cxiv).
The farewell discourses of our Lord, related in
John xiv.-xvii., take the place of this "relating." They
must, however, have been delivered somewhat later on,
after the departure of Judas. In like manner, the new
significance of the " breaking of bread " must have been
delayed until this uncongenial element had been
The Second Cup (called the " cup of Haggadah or
Proclaiming) is drunk. Here ends the first part of the
6. — Second Washing of Hands. — All wash their
hands before meals as it is usual in the East. It was
probably at this time that our Lord washed the feet of
7. — Grace before Meal is said and small pieces
of the Passover cake are distributed and eaten.
8.— The " Bitter Herb," and the " Sop " (called
Charoseth). Some endive or horseradish, or some other
bitter herb is partaken of in memory of the bitterness
and persecution which the Israelites endured in Egypt.
The " bitter herb " is placed between pieces of the
broken cake and " dipped " into*the_. " charoseth " and
(a). — The Charoseth is composed of figs, nuts,
dates, pomegranates, apples, almonds, cinnamon, and
ginger. When all these are mixed up, a sauce of clayish
appearance is the result. It is to remind the guests
of the clay with which their ancestors had to make the
bricks in Egypt. The crushed cinnamon bark or tube
is to represent the straw which they had to mix with the
clay in Egypt. The " sop " which our Lord gave to
Judas most probably was the " Charoseth."
(b). The Significance of the " Sop." — In answer
to St. John's enquiry as to who was to be the betrayer
the Lord answered " He it is, for whom / [emphatic]
shall dip the sop,* and give it him. So when He had
dipped the sop, He taketh and giveth it to Judas,"
(John xiii., 26). The dish containing ' charoseth ' goes
round, and each guest dips his own morsel into it and
eats ; but on this night, it was Christ who dipped
the morsel and gave it to Judas. What did He mean
by it ? To an Eastern it would have a most solemn
significance, for eating bread with a man means entering
into the most sacred and indissoluble bond of friendship
with him. The Psalmist could not have depicted a
more monstrous treachery than the one which he depicts
in the words of Psalm xli., 9: — "Yea mine own
* Greek " psomion " "a little piece broken oft," probably
refers to the broken piece of the Passover cake \\hich, with bitter
herb, is " dipped " into the Charoseth.
familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my
bread, hath lifted up his heel against me." When our
Lord gave the sop to Judas, He meant this : — I know
you are going to betray me, but even now my heart
yearns for your salvation ; I give you another opportunity
to repent ; I enter into the covenant of bread with you ;
this sop is another mark of My good-will towards you.
We read in verse 30 that Judas, " having received f the
sop, went out straightway, and it was night." So, the
Lord is left undisturbed to institute His own Supper
for which He has been longing (Lk. xxii., 15). He
turns " the Lord's Passover" into "the Lord's Supper."
9. — The Evening Meal. — The real meal now
begins. Every one is by duty bound to have a good
hearty supper. Then they wash their hands for a third
10. — The Afikuman.— After the meal, the " Afiku-
man " i.e. the part of the cake which was laid
aside (p. 29), is brought out and eaten. Probably it
was at this junction that our Lord instituted^ the Lord's
Supper. He had intentionally delayed it until the
departure of Judas.
f Literally," huving taken, "which implies that Judas understood
what Christ meant when He offered him the sop. Judas " took "
from His hand, as if to say, " yes, I take it from Thy hand and
enter into the covenant of bread with Thee." Yet, in spite of this,
he went and betrayed his Lord, and thus showed that he must
have been under the influence of Satan, otherwise, he would have
never betrayed his Lord after this solemn covenant (see Jn. xiii., 27).
ii. — The Cup of Blessing1. — This is the third cup
and is called " the cup of blessing," because the blessing
or " the grace after meal" is pronounced upon it. It
was certainly this cup which our Lord blessed, saying
" this cup is the new covenant in my blood, even that
which is poured out for you" (Luke xxii., 20). This
cup comes " after supper," i.e. after the evening meal
just as we read in Luke xxii., 20. " The cup of blessing "
is also the name which St. Paul gives to the cup in the
Holy Communion (i Cor. x., 16), thus connecting the
Christian Sacramental cup with the third cup of the
Jewish Passover Service.
12. — The Mallei. — The cup is filled a fourth time.
The second part of the Hallel consisting of Psalms cxv. to
cxviii., and the " Great Hallel " (Ps. cxxxvi) is recited.
The cup is then blessed and drunk. This is the concluding
cup. At the Last Supper, St. Matthew tells us, " when
they had sung a hymn, they went out" (xxvi., 30). The
" hymn " probably was the Hallel Psalms.
13. — Conclusion. — A prayer is offered that God
may accept the Service just rendered. Modern Jews
conclude the Passover Service by singing several hymns
which, however, do not go back to the days of our Lord.
The Arm. — Since the destruction of the Temple
(70, A.D.), the Jews have no sacrifices. They place,
however, a half-burnt shank-bone or " arm " of a lamb
on their table as a symbol of the paschal lamb. The
reason for the choice of this particular bone is to be
found in Exodus vi., 6 (" stretched out arm ").
The Egg. — Since the destruction of the Temple
the Jews have been in the habit of placing an egg on
their Passover tables, according to the Western Jews, as
a reminder of the " Chagiga " or additional festive
offering. The Eastern Jews, however, regard the egg
as a symbol of mourning."- It is to remind them that
although they are rejoicing they must not forget that as
a nation they are really in mourning, because their Temple
is destroyed and their Holy City is trodden down by the
Elijah's Chair.— The Jews believe that when the
Messiah comes, he will manifest Himself to his nation
during the Feast of Passover. He will be, however,
preceded by Elijah, his forerunner. So the modern
Jews place a vacant chair at the table with a glass of
wine before it, and actually go and fling their doors open
to let Elijah come in and bring them the glad tidings
that the Messiah has come.
This is so pathetic. We, Christians, kno-w that
their Messiah has come, that the Lord Jesus is their
Messiah. Shall we not go and in a loving Christian
way tell them of Him who is
" A light to lighten the Gentiles,
And the glory of thy people Israel " ?
* .In the East, mourning is accompanied by refusal to partake
of meals (n Sam. xii., 16-17). Friends and neighbours bring the
mourners some nourishment and try to persuade them to eat it
(n Sam. iii., 35; Jer. xvi., 7 : Hos. ix., 4). The nourishment
which they can most conveniently bring is an egg. Hence the egg
has come to be regarded as mourners' food.
* ^fw%^SKf ^8ror4^ogA^<n«7& ^>«
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